Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Radioactive Waste consultation - three weeks left

The latest phase of discussion about what we do about the long-term storage of Nuclear Waste, and whether a repository is a better solution than the present arrangements, continues for just over three weeks, until Friday 23rd March.

A series of Community drop-in events have been held around Cumbria, all of which are now complete.

However you can still respond and find out more online at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Media slant on Nuclear power ...

A year ago an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

In September Japan's National Police Agency gave the number of confirmed deaths caused by the earthquake and tsunami as 15,850 with a further 3,287 people missing.

How many confirmed deaths resulted from radiation leakage or the other nuclear related accidents which the earthquake caused at the Fukushima Nuclear plant?


92.5% of the fatalities confirmed by April as a result of the earthquake and Tsunami died by drowning, including both the people who died at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Media coverage in the UK of the anniversary of the disaster centred entirely on the Fukushima plant, which might have been a legitimate story placed in context, but it seems bizarre that the way Japan is recovering from the rest of the disaster, or what the cost was in lives and money, was completely ignored.

When there is a natural cataclysm which kills well over fifteen thousand people, and the press coverage is disproportionately concentrated on one particular side-effect of that disaster which hasn't caused any confirmed deaths at all, you have to ask yourselves whether this reporting reflects at least an unconscious bias.

As a clear example of anti-nuclear bias, at one point on today's news the reporter said that people were worried about the effect a second earthquake or tsunami might have on Fukushima.

Really, talk about tunnel vision!

If there were another seismic event remotely like the 2011 quake and tsunami, the evidence of last year shows clearly that the damage and loss of life from the event itself would be vastly worse than the effects of damage to nuclear plants.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yet another metal theft post - the courts crack down

Yes, another post about beating the metal thieves.

As any regular reader of this blog may well have gathered, I have strong opinions about this. Both I and two of my brothers-in-law work or have worked in industries which are particularly affected by the plague of metal theft.

And since thousands of homes in West Cumbria had their telephone service cut off for a big slice of a weekend late last year, because incompetent would-be metal theives ripped out a section of fibre telephone cable near Workington in the hope that it was copper, I've felt even more strongly about it.

Which is why I'm pleased to note that one of the things I called for in earlier blog posts is starting to happen - the courts are starting to hand out sentences proportionate to the damage the metal thieves could potentially cause - and where people steal cable from the railway signal networks or BT's network that can mean causing the death of innocent people - rather than the value of the metal stolen.

Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, instructed prosecutors last month to take into account the full impact of metal theft crimes when those accused are brought before the courts.

Courts in Maidstone and Cambridge have recently acted on such recommendations from prosecutors and handed out prison sentences of up to three years for the theft of telephone cables.

​The Crown Court in Maidstone, Kent, heard how police were alerted by a dog walker who discovered the cable, with a scrap value of £4,180, which had been pulled up from two manhole covers.

It had been cut into sections and left in a field near Aylesford ready for transportation by the thieves.

Police spotted two men trying to run away from the field. Anthony Prebble was arrested nearby in possession of a pair of cable cutters, and Colin Wray was located in undergrowth by an infrared camera on the police helicopter.

Prebble pleaded guilty to theft and Wray was found guilty on the unanimous verdict of a jury. Both were sentenced to three years in prison.

Someone who rips a length of cable out of the BT network cannot know for certain what service they are cutting off. As we saw in the recent case in Cumbria, it it entirely possible that such an action can cut thousands of homes and businesses off for hours while BT engineers work round the clock to repair the damage. This could easily have resulted in deaths if a 999 call failed to get through to Cumbria Fire Service or the ambulance service.

I would have been even happier if the principle could be established that the general tariff for attacks on a communication or control network with potential to cause loss of life can carry a sentence of ten years inside. But at least a three year sentence, even with remission and parole, means a full year in prison and that sends the signal that this sort of offence is unacceptable.

In another case at Cambridge Crown Court, Arran Denzey and Richard Key were each sentenced to 18 months prison for stealing 180 metres of BT cable from alongside the A1. Cambridgeshire police found the cable, cutting equipment and a winch in the men’s van. Evidence gathered from the crime scene by the BT Metal Theft Task Force assisted the police to secure the convictions.

Luke Beeson, BT Security general manager for cable theft, said: “Courts are finally beginning to recognise the seriousness of this crime and are handing down stiffer sentences."

About time too, but this is welcome!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Beating the metal thieves, continued

Police working to beat the metal thieves have carried out a series of raids in various parts of Britain this year, including the North, and now a series of raids in WIltshire have produced a spectacular result.

Around one ton of stolen BT cable was recovered during a series of co-ordinated raids on scrap metal yards.

​Representatives of BT’s Metal Theft Task Force and 12 other agencies joined more than 100 police officers to serve warrants at dealerships in Wiltshire.

Sites in Melksham, Trowbridge, Swindon and Christian Malford near Chippenham were visited during the operation.

Ten people - including a 12-year-old boy - were arrested for offences including theft, handling stolen goods and burglary.

Property recovered included one ton of BT cable at the Melksham yard and more stolen cable belonging to BT at the Trowbridge yard, as well as stolen beer barrels, drain covers, water valves, metal pipes and around £10,500 cash.

Luke Beeson, BT Security general manager for metal theft, said: “The success of these police-led operations is critical to our success in reducing the number of cable theft incidents.

“Choking the disposal route for stolen metal is the most effective way of stopping it being stolen in the first place.”

A total of 45 traders delivering scrap metals to the sites were checked and 10 were served notices requiring them to produce evidence of how they obtained the items being delivered.

Acting chief inspector Pete Chamberlain said: “We are pleased with how the operation went and the way in which so many organisations came together to help tackle this crime which blights all our communities.”

The success of these raids is a welcome confirmation that the government and the authorities are taking the problem of metal theft seriously, but more still needs to be done. There are plenty of honest scrap metal dealers but the fact that so much stolen property was found on the sites searched in Wiltshire is a clear indication of the need for stricter licensing arrangements and implementation on the proposed ban on buying metal for cash.

We have to exterminate the trade in stolen metal before it causes deaths among innocent people.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Argentina goes to UN over Falklands

I see that the government of Argentina has complained to the UN over the Falklands.

Presumably, just as Galtieri's military Junta was trying to prop itself up during political difficulties when it invaded the islands, the present president is attempting to shore up her domestic political position with an equally childish appeal to the most xenophobic forms of chauvinism. I suppose we should think ourselves fortunate that this time the Argentinians are choosing forms of protest which only waste time and money rather than lives.

The latest ridiculous argument is that it in some way "militarises" the islands to have sent Prince William to the Falklands on a routine posting as a navy Air Sea Rescue pilot, and to have sent a modern destroyer, HMS Dauntless, to visit them. If Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner should lose the next election, she should be able to get a job as a stand-up comedian on the basis of her accusation that the British decision to send HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic and to post the Duke of Cambridge on Air Sea Rescue duty on the islands posed a risk to "international security".

Well what do you know - Air Sea Rescue is a threat to International Security! Perhaps this might provide a retrospective justification for Bush and Blair's invasion of Iraq. Apparently it wasn't whether Saddam Hussein had WMD we should have been worried about but Iraq's Air Sea Rescue service!

While I wouldn't rule out the possibility that other UN members may take the opportunity to embarrass Britian over this, there is no way that most of them would actually accept the principle that a nation state can't move a military unit within their own territory - can you imagine what China or Russia would say to any other country which told them they could send one of their own destroyers to an island they claim and control? So although they may make us veto the complaint as revenge for the Syrian argument a few days ago, if we didn't have a veto Russia or China might well have blocked the Argentinian argument themselves. It just isn't the way the world works.

The irony is that if successive Argentine governments had wooed the islanders with friendship rather than threats some sort of joint sovereignity might now be in place. In the seventies and early eighties some sort of deal was very nearly put on the table by successive Labour and Tory ministers, although backbenchers in the House of Commons gave Ridley's proposals short shrift at the time and they were put on the back burner. But such a deal might have been a remote possibility until Argentina invaded and started a conflict which cost hundreds of lives.

At the moment the first British blood was shed in the Falklands war and lives had been lost in the defence of the islands, it became quite inconceivable that either the British or Falklands electorates would consider any compromise with Argentina while the events of 1982 remain in living memory.

The previous history of the islands is not actually all that relevant. Since about the 1920's the principle has been generally accepted by everyone who is entitled to call themself a supporter of democracy that self-determination is the only acceptable basis for deciding national boundaries.

The vast majority of the Falkland Islanders want their home to remain under the British crown and reject any idea of being put under Argentine sovereignity. Which, after what the Argentines did on the Falklands in 1982, is hardly surprising.

And for those who believe in democracy that is the end of the argument.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The big freeze continues

Another day to take care if you are out and about: temperatures in Whitehaven were below freezing for most of the day yesterday and is currently (8.00 am) about four degrees below freezing according to the air temperature thermometer in my car.

A two-inch thick block of ice which my daughter removed from the top of a water container yesterday morning was still lying beside it un-melted this morning, while a stick of ice, sticking up out of the water at and angle of about 45 degrees and looking for all the world like an ice sundial, had formed on the surface of the same container as the bizarre result of a very cold wind.

We can only assume that the cold wind created a wave in the water and then froze the top of it, and then more water was driven to the top of the ice-stick by the wind and then froze, so that the stick of ice gradually got higher until the surface of the water was completely frozen. By this time the stick of ice was about three inches high. I have never seen anything like it.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Big Freeze

Take great care if you are out and about in any part of Cumbria or many other parts of Britain today - the roads and pavements are icy. Certainly they are lethal in Whitehaven this morning which alomst certainly means that many parts of the county will be worse.

Take particular care if you might be minded to do anything involving moving heavy objects outside, especially on a slope. The advice should probably be, don't!

It being brown bin collection day, I have just brought our brown bin round from the back garden and up our steep drive. Despite taking great care I could very easily have injured myself, was probably foolish even to attempt it and will not be trying anything like that in these sorts of conditions again.